Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Let's Make Apple Pie (Guest Post)

Please welcome back Melynda, who blogs at Mom's Sunday Cafe, for another guest post. (You may remember her recycled t-shirts craft.)  Today she's talking about two of my favorite things, family and food.

Sunday September 12, 2010 was Grandparents Day. This is a relatively new holiday, not one I celebrated officially, when I was a kid. However I had a great and wonderful Grandmother and time with her was a celebration. Our grandmother Carter was one in a million. She was always happy, made the best of any situation and could make you feel like a million bucks when you were in her company. I got to spend time with her only infrequently, as we moved or she was on the move!

She was a sharp dresser, and a lover of hats. The picture I share, is from my memories book, a beautiful gift from my sister. It has copies of all the important pictures. You know the ones, where you are just a family, doing what families do. When our Mother wanted to "stage" a photograph, she would say, "OK you kids, stand close together" and if we had had a particularly hectic day, she would add "and act like you care about each other".

My grandmother Carter was born in 1900, she came across the prairie in a covered wagon when she was a young girl to California. She went to work in the lumber camps in Northern California at the age of 13. She was the camp cook for a group of hungry loggers that cut the huge trees with hand drawn saws. They would be ravenous at meal time. One day she had a bit of extra time and a few apples, so she made an apple pie. Well, that did it!

Her duties were expanded to include making a pie per man, per day. Needless to say, she needed some help. A cooks helper was brought in so she could accomplish it all. Imagine here was this 13 year old young woman, with her own helper, working as head cook, in the camp. But you know , she never stopped cooking her whole life. Grandmother went on to marry and raise a family, later she would work out of the home, then semi retire and cook as a hobby and to raise a little cash when she got bored, then finally retire to travel a bit, but she never, ever stopped cooking.

This was grandmother's cookbook that she used when she started cooking again after raising a family. Her cooking took her many places. But she always came back home to see her family. The book was full, so Grandmother did the frugal and the sensible, she added some pages for the handwritten treasures. 

I have so many great memories about my grandmother, and of course she was not really only mine, I got to share her with a lot of other siblings and cousins. But the memories that I adore are mine, and in my heart she was my grandmother. I can only hope that my siblings and cousins feel the same way, that in their hearts she was (only) their grandmother as well.

My family. I am on the far left in red.

As I recall, this is suppose to be about pie. I should get back on track, and start talking pie, apple pie!

Grandmother was the best pie baker, she always put a lot of love into her cooking, and by sheer volume of food cooked through the years, a lot of skill also. My sister Kathy and I both love pie, but I won't say too much, because I don't think you can love pie too much! Because of that love, we also are good pie bakers. There is nothing as good as homemade pie. I have stopped ordering pie in a cafe or restaurant because it is always just a bit disappointing. Maybe because the secret ingredient, is missing.

Grandmother baked pie, by touch. I am not that good. I do not, bake by touch. However there is a lot of hands on work that is necessary and enjoyable, for a good pie. I remember my grandmother saying, as she worked and I watched, " work the flour and fat together, with your hands" , "don't add to much water, you only want it to cling together", and of course " treat it gentle, for a tender crust". As a young girl, I would listen intently and in awe, right there by her elbow as she worked and I stood at the edge of the table. Then before I knew it, a beautiful pie would come out of her oven.

Grandmother's handmade pie, seasoned with love
by the seat of my pants!

Start with the apples:
7 large apples - peeled and sliced thin
1/2 c sugar (rapadura)
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T flour
1 T cornstarch
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

Peel apples, quarter and core, the apple quarters will measure approximately 8 cups.

Rinse, slice into a large bowl.

Combine remaining ingredients and stir into apples to coat well.

Let apples sit and "juice" while you make the pastry. The "juicing" process will shrink the apples slightly. This shrinking will happen before baking, not during the baking, your pie will be full of fruit, with less of an air pocket right under the top crust.

400 degree oven

ice water - place 2 0r 3 ice cubes into measuring cup, add 1 c water, set in freezer

2 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 T sugar
3/4 c chilled butter, lard or coconut oil, cut into small dice

additional flour for rolling out dough
minute tapioca, to sprinkle in bottom crust

Prepare ice water.

Combine all remaining ingredients into large bowl, cut fat in with a pastry cutter (my preference) or work fat into flour with your hands.

When fat is cut into flour and there is a even looking mixture of flour and fat, begin working in the water. Only use a T measuring spoon to add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Important:  Do Not Use More Than 8 T of Water - Total. Dough will come together with some assistance, gently use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball.

On a floured surface, roll dough in flour to coat. Cut into 2 pieces.

Using one half of the dough, roll evenly into a 10inch circle. The easiest way to do this is stand at the corner of your work area, roll the rolling pin North and South gently a couple of times, then East and West a couple of times. Continue rolling in this manner evenly until dough is the correct size for your pie pan.

Use the rolling pin to roll the dough onto, lift the dough onto the top of the pie pan and unroll the pie crust dough over the pie pan. Use your hands to "fit" the dough down into the pan and shift it if necessarily to fit the pan evenly, in order to seal the edge when the top crust goes on.

Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with the minute tapioca.

Add the apples, using your hands to "fit" and arrange the apple slices into the crust.  Roll out the top crust, and again, use the rolling pin to support the dough and bring it over the apples, and unroll.

Adjust the top crust, and seal the edges. Make one small hole in top crust, and put in a vent so that you do not loose the good juices onto the bottom of the oven floor. I prefer a small stainless steel funnel. Having the vent allows the juices to boil in the crust, and cook everything well, without a lot of mess. There are also ceramic pie birds that work well, they are much cuter, but I am partial to my funnel, it comes out clean when the baking is over.

Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees, reduce heat and bake 45 - 55 minutes more or until fruit is cooked and pie is done, in your oven. Let cool and enjoy.

My grandmother inspired me to have the Sunday dinners that are the namesake or theme for this blog. Sunday dinner was an important meal in our house growing up as well. Today when I cook my own Sunday dinners each month, there are usually 4 generations in my kitchen, my Grandmother (always present in my heart),  myself, my own children, and now grandchildren.

Thanks for being here, Melynda!


  1. Hello Melissa, thanks so much for featuring this story about my Grandmother and her wonderful apple pie.
    But I can clearly see I have a task to get done this weekend. Apparently photobucket and I are not talking to each other LOL!
    Take care, and thanks again.

  2. What sweet memories :) Your pie looks delicious!

  3. I'm visiting from Melynda's blog. Love the history and story about Grandma!! And this is one great looking pie - you just can't beat it!

  4. I love homemade apple pie. This post reminds me of my grandmother.


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